syd hartha reflects on her self-awakening with new single “hiwaga”

In less than two years of being signed under Sony Music Philippines, syd hartha quickly rose to prominence with compelling pop/folk anthems that expertly balance lyrical depth with relatability and social relevance. From taking a pro-woman stand on “ayaw” to documenting the importance of self-restraint on “paru-paro,” the young singer-songwriter marks a clear step forward in terms of exploring outsider themes that even her contemporaries would seem to avoid. 

Having that same grasp of writerly elegance without resorting to repeating herself, syd hartha takes a moment to reflect on her personal actions through her latest single, “hiwaga”—a stunningly produced, stripped-down tune that deals with self-awakening and healing in preparation to becoming “the best version of herself”—to reference a line from the coming-of-age film, Lady Bird

Writing from a place of newfound perspective and riveting wisdom, syd wrote “hiwaga” as a reminder that no matter who you are and what you may be going through, you are still capable of being part of a better change. “Basically, the love you have for yourself reflects to everyone and everything around you,” the critically acclaimed musician explains. “There was a time in my life where I felt so stuck and started to question my existence and the reason for everything. What inspired me to write this song is my awakening to the fact that I was given this life for a reason. I want to heal so I can be the best version of myself for everyone around me and I want to inspire people to do the same.”

Quite a diversion from her usual sound, “hiwaga” is produced by Johnoy Danao, and performed with her backing band consisting of Bea Fabros, Raisa Racelis and Pat Sarabia. According to syd hartha, the track was recorded at the confines of the musicians’ homes under the guidance of Johnoy Danao. “Initially, we thought of a big production incorporating more instruments like horns, but we decided we wanted to give the song a lot of room to breathe and let the lyrics shine.” syd adds, “recording ‘hiwaga,’ was definitely challenging because it was our first time producing a single without seeing each other.”

The song also features a rap verse from syd herself, who admits that hip-hop has greatly influenced her songwriting. “As someone who’s so fond of several hip-hop artists’ writing and delivery, I noticed how stronger and more effective it is when the message is somehow spoken instead of sung. Also, when I wrote ‘hiwaga,’ it all started with just words; it was me having a conversation with myself. I decided then that I wanted the feel to be more conversational and more focused on the message of the lyrics.” 

syd hartha’s “hiwaga” is out now on all digital platforms worldwide via Sony Music Philippines.

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release.

The Geeks return with new single “The First Time”

After two years of not dropping any new material, indie pop quartet The Geeks are finally making a comeback with the release of their new single “The First Time”—out today via Lilystars Records.

Strumming its way comfortably into slacker and honeyed guitar pop territory, The Geek’s latest song rejects the notion of predictability by going vintage in aesthetic and function, while connecting on an emotional level with newfound grace. 

“Our new single in two years is an homage to local Filipino kundiman music – a tribute to a time when we still wrote letters and the internet was non-existent,” vocalist and guitarist Jam Lorenzo shares the inspiration behind their new song. “Partly inspired by the portrayal of young romance in Filipino period films, ‘The First Time’ discusses in vague detail the enduring cliché of being stood up on the eve of a planned elopement.”

With its subtly heartbreaking observations on a kind of love that’s a product of a different time and milieu, “The First Time” shines through more than ever with a sharper, more deeply layered turn in The Geeks’ songwriting style: its sense of defeat is more palpable, and the verses wreck when you’re least prepared. 

The Geeks’ “The First Time” is now available on all streaming and digital platforms worldwide.

Maris Racal shows her introspective side on new single “Not For Me”

Aside from making a name for herself as one of the breakout young actresses of her generation, Maris Racal has successfully dabbled in writing her own songs and challenging industry expectations with her intimate and refreshing take on pop music. From penning the chart-topping confessional “Ikaw Lang Sapat Na” to collaborating with Rico Blanco on the city pop-influenced ditty “Abot Langit,” Racal is surprisingly an effective chronicler of love anthems for the modern age—a guitar-toting songstress known for balancing commercial appeal with artistic integrity.

Bursting with youthful fervor and charismatic edge, Maris Racal’s latest single “Not For Me” stretches her introspective side of music-making to interesting places, while retaining the accessibility of her recent crossover hits. Her resounding confidence translates perfectly into the musical output, but it’s her conversational and matter-of-fact songwriting style that earns the stripes, revealing a degree of self-assuredness that comes with experience.

Inspired by Britpop acts such as Aqualung and folk-pop chanteuses like Lily Allen and Regina Spektor, Racal wrote “Not For Me” not so much for intriguing unconventionality, but as an outlet to express herself in a way that feels truthful and inherently raw. The driving piano chords and the soaring arrangements give her storytelling a more authentic spin, lending it an effortless breeziness while making sure it doesn’t lessen the emotional impact of the song.

With “Not For Me” putting a spotlight on her songwriting strengths, Maris Racal explores the complexities of romantic uncertainty with a surprisingly nuanced approach—unfiltered, no longer afraid of possibilities, and ready to own the moment.  

Not For Me” is out now on all digital platforms worldwide via Sony Music Philippines.

Bryan Estepa deals with life’s curveballs on new song “Admit Now, Pay Later”

Filipino-Australian singer-songwriter Bryan Estepa navigates the process of understanding and coming to terms with life’s curveballs on his brand new single, “Admit Now, Pay Later”—released on September 18, Friday under Lilystars Records / Rock Indiana.

Stripping everything down to essentials while exploring a more sonically adventurous approach to musicality, Estepa deflates any kind of conceit for a song that touches on hindsight and self-reflection. He strives to keep his narrative distinctly more intimate and closer to home without sounding contrived at all. 

“Lyrically this song touches on how quickly life can change both for the good and the bad,” the folk rock artist explains. “But just as importantly is how we react to it. There’s never gonna be a perfect response to life’s curve balls but we just deal with it the best we can.”

Having been inspired by phrases and passages that he encountered or read on a daily basis, Bryan Estepa remembers being instantly drawn seeing the sign “Admit Now, Pay Later.” He particularly likes the incongruity in its meaning: the idea of diving into the deep end, of being courageous and dealing with what may come from it later on. He shares, “It was also one of the few songs that was born during the heaviest period of the COVID lockdowns here in Sydney and I had a really unexpected creative burst. When that happens, I try to ride the wave as long as I can.”

Driven by intricately playful instrumentation and wistful alt-country melodies, “Admit Now, Pay Later” feels more like an extension of Bryan Estepa’s remarkable consistency as a songwriter and musician. With guidance from multiple ARIA and APRA-award winning producer, Josh Pyke, Estepa’s new track blends tenderness with immaculate precision, revealing its charm even the first time you listen to it.  He reveals, “The final version is a lot more layered than my original idea but that’s the beauty of music and the way it can evolve in beautiful and unexpected ways.” 

“Admit Now, Pay Later” is out now on all digital and streaming platforms worldwide via Lilystars Records. 

The Itchyworms to launch quarantine-themed album with a virtual event

The Itchyworms will be hosting a virtual album launch to celebrate the release of their highly anticipated fifth album, Waiting For The End To Start

A few hours before the 9-track album drops on digital platforms worldwide, the acclaimed pop-rock outfit is set to debut the songs for the very first time through an online listening and live commentary party, which will be streamed live via The Itchyworms’ official Facebook page on August 17, (Monday), from 7:30 pm onwards. 

Expect a night of fun and entertainment as The Itchyworms perform select cuts from their upcoming release, and promise music listeners to deliver a riveting music experience like no other. 

About the album

The Itchyworms’ upcoming studio album, Waiting For The End To Start was conceptualized and recorded with the members of the band confined in their respective homes during the nationwide lockdown. 

Thematically, the songs are written as a reflection of their individual and collective experiences during the quarantine period. It also inhabits a more adventurous and relentless approach in terms of production and songwriting, which produced captivating end results that music fans will surely love.

As Chino Singson, the band’s lead guitarist and back-up vocalist, shares in a statement, “Like any collection of music, it is a record of its time: A snapshot of the artist’s reaction to his or her circumstances. But it’s a concept album in that our aim was to create art in the midst of a pandemic, to capture our emotions in the music we record, even with the limited recording gear we have at home. So you’ll hear amp buzz and imperfect vocals, but for me that’s part of the spirit of true rock.”

The Itchyworms’ “Waiting For The End To Start” virtual album launch is presented by Sony Music Philippines, GNN Entertainment, and Linya-Linya.

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release

Zack Tabudlo takes charge of his fear and soars in love with latest single, “Nangangamba”

“I wrote down some lyrics about the things I was going through at the time. I was in a situation where I felt like someone I liked was playing too hard to get, and the song pretty much circles around that idea: that sometimes when we play too hard to get, we lose people who really love us or people who [turn out to] feel the same way.”

Singer-songwriter and producer Zack Tabudlo finds renewed perspective on time’s delicate role in shaping your own destiny, setting an ultimatum on fear with his newest single, “Nangangamba,” out today on digital platforms worldwide.
On his first release under Island Records Philippines, Zack urges listeners to take ownership of their own feelings: that inaction may shield you from pain, yes, but ultimately it’ll get you nowhere. He brings love songs up a notch, infusing pop and R&B elements to his powerful vocals—a testament to his ever-evolving songwriting and production style. But moreover, it signals a shift on his creative choices in keeping his individual artistry as dynamic as his growth in the music industry. “With these new tracks, I’m sure people who have experienced these would relate so much more… [the latest single] is very different, music-wise and in terms of maturity,” he shares.

Part of this artistic growth is Zack’s experience of writing “Nangangamba,” a song he wrote a year ago. He cites an earlier failed romance as the inspiration behind the song. “I wrote down some lyrics about the things I was going through at the time. I was in a situation where I felt like someone I liked was playing too hard to get, and the song pretty much circles around that idea: that sometimes when we play too hard to get, we lose people who really love us or people who [turn out to] feel the same way.” The process of writing the actual song didn’t take long once the idea set in. “It all started with a melody that popped into my head while I was in class. Every time melodies or ideas pop in my head, I always grab my phone to record them just to make sure I won’t forget. But this time, I knew I needed at least a couple of chords on any instrument just to seal the idea. I recorded all the chords I needed using a ukulele. When I got home I went straight to my home studio and finished the production with my vocals and everything. Five to six hours later, ‘Nangangamba’ was born.”

Now finally set to be released, “Nangangamba” unintentionally—and fittingly—became a case of practicing what you preach, as he sings, “Ito na ang pagkakataon / Wala nang pipigil sa’yo / ‘Wag ka nang mahihiya / Sabihin na ang totoo.” In some ways, the lockdown allowed him to reprioritize. “I have a home studio and all the equipment I need. Having all the time in the world made me focus more and be motivated to write lots of songs compared to when I was also studying at the same time.”

Acquiring skills over time also made it possible to avoid tremendous adjustments to recording and producing the single despite limitations during the quarantine. “Just like in my old tracks, I’ve worked on them from top to bottom. I’m the producer, writer, singer, arranger, as well as the mixing and mastering engineer. It was really fun experimenting with different genres and I really like the vibe of each and every song I’ve been making lately. There are samples I’ve worked on from scratch with these tracks and I really can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”

His latest career step as part of the brand-new Island Records roster excites the multi-disciplinary artist. “Everyone in MCA Music Philippines and Island Records Philippines are amazing… They’ve been very supportive and very creative when it comes to ideas or projects, and I know I have a very strong team behind me.”

About Zack Tabudlo

Zack Tabudlo is a singer-songwriter and producer from Manila, Philippines. He joined The Voice Kids in 2014 and went on to establish his solo career, writing and performing his own music. His first single, “Stay Here,” was released in 2018 and was featured on several Spotify playlists, including “Men of OPM,” “Philippines Viral 50,” and “OPM Says Chillax.” His subsequent single, “Mahal O Biro,” was again included in “Men of OPM” and “Pinoy Love Ballads” playlists. Zack premiered his first single of 2020, the chill-pop track “This Is Love,” in February.

He has also collaborated with several OPM artists, undertaking writer and producer roles. He’s most recently been credited in arranging and producing Carlo Aquino’s single “Balisong” and Sharlene San Pedro’s “Everything Will Be Alright” and “Pusong Naliligaw.”

Now on a fresh path in his career, Zack sets his sights to winning the hearts of his audience both locally and internationally as one of the bold new signees to Island Records Philippines.

Image and details provided by Island Records Philippines in a recent press release.

R&B/Soul singer-songwriter Gail Belmonte releases debut single ‘Tonight’ via Umami Records

Gail Belmonte’s voice is a formidable instrument that fits the song’s easygoing charm and brimming sensuality. Her singing style works pretty well in the context of flowy arrangements and vintage sounds, and it somehow finds fascinating corners within Tonight’s urban pop appeal.

R&B/soul singer-songwriter Gail Belmonte has released her debut single ‘Tonight’, via Singapore-based indie label Umami Records. 

A chill track with that feel-good fairy dust sprinkled on top, ‘Tonight’ is about enjoying the night, slowing down and taking the time to soak in its magical beauty. 

“I’m quite the night owl and work best during the nighttime, so I decided to write a whole song about how much I love the night,” Gail shares the details about her new song. “In writing ‘Tonight’, I felt a sense of safety in the night, and I wanted to portray that in the most comfortable and magical way possible – and that’s throwing a bit of love in there. The most important thing to me is that it’s completely okay to feel vulnerable on your own in the dark of night, and it is okay to slow down every once in a while and let the night time take over.”

Gail’s voice is a formidable instrument that fits the song’s easygoing charm and brimming sensuality. Her singing style works pretty well in the context of flowy arrangements and vintage sounds, and it somehow finds fascinating corners within Tonight’s urban pop appeal.  

Born and raised in Singapore, of Filipino descent, Gail Belmonte started singing and performing from an early age, and has won and appeared in numerous singing competitions in Singapore and Philippines since 2016. The upcoming singer-songwriter made her theatre debut in Pangdemonium’s staging of the Tony award-winning musical, Fun Home, in 2017.

Gail Belmonte has been featured on tracks by artists like fulses, thecolorfractal, Fingerfunk and Tim De Cotta. The R&B artist is finally ready to put out her own music with 3 singles planned for release in 2020, in which she explores the effects of love, heartache, falling apart and putting yourself back together again.

Tonight by Gail Belmonte is available everywhere at this link.

Image and details provided by Umami Records in a recent press release.